Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Amour Fou [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)   Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Film-Zeit.de listing*

aVoir-aLire.fr (E. Martin) review*
aVoir-aLire.fr (T. Baelen) review*
Critic.de (N. Klingler) review*
Kino-Zeit.de (B. Behn) review*
Sound On Sight (T. Poglajen) review
Way Too Indie (N. Grozdanovic) review

Amour Fou [2014] [IMDb] [FZ.de]* (written and directed by Jessica Hausner [IMDb] [FZ.de]*) is German period drama set in the very early 1800s largely at a country estate in Prussia somewhere outside of Berlin with the Napoleonic Wars / Controversies looming certainly in the background.  Think of it as a north German Downton Abbey [2010-] [wikip] [IMDb] set at the time of Jane Austen.   

The film played recently at the 2015 - 18th Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.  Though as of the writing of this article it is not yet available for purchase/streaming in the United States, it is available in Europe through the Amazon Instant Video streaming service in the U.K.

From a technical, cinematographic and set design perspective this film is a wonder to behold.  Almost every single scene set, both indoors and out, looks as if it is playing-out in a "Dutch Master" period painting of the time.  The colors, the costuming are the highest quality.

What may disturb the American viewer especially a religious one would be the film's content.  No the issue here is _certainly_ not some sort of a presentation of "wild sexual excess."  LOL, far, far from it ;-).  This story is set in cold, damp, (Lutheran), Northern Germany (Prussia) of the early-1800s, about as "we don't think about these things" a time and place as one could imagine ;-). 

Instead, the film is largely about a very depressed 20 or 30 something year-old poet named Heinrich (interpreted magnificently by Christian Friedel [IMDb] [FZ.de]*) who, having _perhaps_ been "unlucky in love" (though honestly he might have come to the conclusion of "what's the point?" because he's arrived at the conclusion that life itself is largely pointless), has decided to look for some young woman out there TO DIE WITH HIM, that is, TO COMMIT SUICIDE WITH HIM. 


But that then is almost certainly the movie's point: There was exquisite beauty in EVERY SINGLE FRAME in this film.  So why did this poet want to kill himself?  And really, WHY DID GERMAN ENLIGHTENED CULTURE OF THAT TIME BEGIN TO BE SO BROODING / NIHILISTIC?

And it is actually quite funny to hear the various figures in the film, mostly petty Prussian nobility of the time, worrying about the "Revolutionary ideas" (mostly of equality, even, gasp, gender equality) coming from France even as they ignore even humor this oddly depressed poet who's looking for some young German woman to kill himself with.

Does he find one?  Without much of a spoiler -- this is German film -- yes, though the circumstances and the rather strange "courtship" make the story.

Ultimately this is an exploration of then nominally Enlightened becoming Romantic European culture: Why did it lead to Depression / Death / and culminating with the two World Wars -- Murder?

Honestly, on the surface this is a very beautiful film.  But it seeks to penetrate that beautiful superficiality to try to get at "what went wrong."  Excellent!  Just excellent!

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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